The New York City Board of Health has adopted Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recommendation to establish a maximum serving size of 16 ounces for sugar-sweetened, non-alcoholic drinks sold at local food establishments. Board members reportedly voted 8-0 with one abstention, one absence and one vacancy to amend Article 81 of the Health Code to place a size restriction on beverages containing more than 25 calories per eight ounces and all self-service cups offered by food vendors, with exemptions for products that are more than 50 percent milk or 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice. Effective March 13, 2013, the new regulations will apply to restaurants, mobile food carts, delis, theater and stadium concessions, and any other food-service business regulated by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which will impose fines of $200 per violation.

“Today’s vote is a historic and important step in fighting New York City’s epidemics of obesity and diabetes,” Health Commissioner Thomas Farley elaborated in a September 13, 2012, press release. “It continues the long tradition of this Board of Health leading the charge against major health problems of the day. It is my hope that in the future we will see today as a turning point in epidemics that each year claims [sic] the lives of thousands of New Yorkers.”

Meanwhile, an industry group opposed to the measure has pointed to the ban’s potentially negative impact on small business owners and other companies. “This is not the end,” a New Yorkers for Beverage Choices spokesperson was quoted as saying. “We are exploring legal options, and all other avenues available to us. We will continue to voice our opposition to this ban and fight for the right of New Yorkers to make their own choices. And we will stand with the business owners who will be hurt by these arbitrary limitations.” Additional details about the Board’s decision appear in Issues 442 and 443 of this Update. See New Yorkers for Beverage Choices Press Release, September 13, 2012.